At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.
A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.
Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.
The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."
One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”
By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."
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'Black fathers of American folk music: Lead Belly and Josh White”New Pittsburgh Courier, January 24th
He was known as the “King of the 12-String Guitar,” which became his ticket to life and freedom. Many of his songs can be found in the Library of Congress, the most famous being “Good Night, Irene.” In June of 1998 the United States Postal Service...Read more
Don Felder to perform on rock night at Lakes JamBrainerd Daily Dispatch, January 23rd
1 best 12-string guitar song in the world by Guitar World magazine. After leaving the group in 2001, Felder also became a New York Times bestselling author when his riveting confessional memoir "Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles" ...Read more
An American Music Legacy at The Grammy MuseumLasentinel, January 22nd
He strummed his Stella 12 string guitar with authority, improvising as he sang, he soon became a walking old anthology of unwritten folk music. Born January 20, 1888 a in the Louisiana swampland, Leadbelly grew up in an atmosphere of violence and...Read more
Kottke returning to the SheldonThe Edwardsville Intelligencer, January 21st
Leo Kottke's powerful guitar playing and his intimate relationship with audiences have made him one of folk music's favorite live performers. Known for his innovative 12-string guitar technique, Kottke is a member of the Guitar Player Magazine Hall of...Read more
Turn it downCity Pulse, January 21st
Huddie William Ledbetter (1888 –1949), aka Lead Belly, is known for being the “king of the 12-string guitar,” spending time in prison, and writing classics like “Good Night, Irene.” He also recorded popular renditions of traditional songs like “Where...Read more
12-String Effect Pedal Now AvailableSonic State, January 9th
DigiTech and UK distributor Sound Technology Ltd have announced immediate availability of the new DigiTech Mosaic Polyphonic 12-String Effect Pedal. They tell us that the DigiTech Mosaic provides the unmistakable sound of a 12-string guitar - its chime...Read more
Briefly | MusicThe Register-Guard, January 1st
On Saturday, audiences have the opportunity to see him perform with a fellow American Guitar Master — Tracy Moore, a 12-string guitar “wizard,” as Pattis calls him. Pattis convinced Moore to leave his Puget Sound retreat to join him for a night of...Read more
SC4 free concerts to feature 12-string guitar playerPort Huron Times Herald, October 11th
St. Clair County Community College's Thursday Noon and Night Concert Series will continue Oct. 23 with 12-string guitar player Neil Jacobs. The concert will be at both noon and 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Theatre on the college's Port Huron campus. Jacobs ...Read more